Gay-Straight Campaign to End Homophobia in Sports

The You Can Play project, with the backing of some National Hockey League players and other supporters, has launched an aggressive advocacy program to change the sometimes homophobic culture of locker rooms with a message that athletes should be judged on athletic skill and ability, not sexual orientation or other discriminatory factors.

So, NHL players are filming public service announcements (PSAs) in support of You Can Play. The first PSA debuted during the first intermission of Sunday’s NBC Sports broadcast of the game between the New York Rangers and Boston Bruins, with others to follow shortly.

All videos can be found at YouCanPlayproject.org, which also will serve as a resource for straight and gay athletes, coaches and fans.

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Meanwhile, The Trevor Project’s new life-saving, life-affirming public service announcement (PSA) featuring Harry Potter film star Daniel Radcliffe premiered on FOX during the network’s hit series “Glee.”

The 30-second spot, which aired at no cost to the organization, empowers young people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or questioning (LGBTQ) to call the Trevor Lifeline if they need support or are considering suicide. The spot will also run on Hulu in conjunction with this episode of “Glee.” (Read: Harry Potter Magic for Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals…)

“The goals for You Can Play are clear,” according to co-founder Patrick Burke. “We want to make locker rooms safe for all athletes, rather than places of fear, slurs and bullying. The casual homophobia in sports has to change, so all athletes know that what counts is whether you can play the game.”

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Burke, a scout for the NHL’s Philadelphia Flyers, has been a straight ally in sports since his younger brother Brendan came out as gay while manager of the Miami University ice hockey team.

Brendan’s story became national news because of his closeness to the NHL and took on deeper meaning when he was killed in a 2010 car accident. Burke’s father, Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Brian Burke, has joined Patrick in filming a PSA in support of You Can Play.

While more than 30 NHL players have volunteered to support the program, You Can Play will extend beyond hockey, encompassing all sports, athletes and fans. The organization is in active discussions with officials and players in several other sports leagues.

Over the next year, You Can Play will provide educational materials, workbooks, online coaching and other high school- and college-based programs aimed at letting coaches and players discuss sexual orientation.

NBC Sports and HBO have joined the launch effort to support the creation and release of the PSA featuring NHL players. Initial funding for You Can Play was provided by the Gill Foundation, the Palette Fund and the Colin Higgins Foundation.

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